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July 28, 2022

High School Line Mechanic Intern Reaches New Heights with Appalachian Power

Appalachian Power's Rob Arnold, distribution system manager, will tell you that 17-year-old Connor McMillian isn’t your average teenager. 

McMillian is taking college courses year-round to complete high school in three years; has a mowing business; helps his friends on their farms; is a traveling musician and is working as a line mechanic intern in the Kingsport District for ten weeks this summer. 

“It’s refreshing to see a young man like Connor,” Arnold said. “He wants to learn, to work with his hands and to become a lineman.” 

Arnold connected with a workplace learning coordinator at Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett High School – the school McMillian attends – after working a little over a year with APCo President Chris Beam, Vice President of Distribution Operations Aaron Walker and Learning Coordinators Latonya Porter and Amanda McClellan to develop a line mechanic internship program at APCo.

Once McMillian saw the internship opportunity posted at school, he jumped on it. 

“I’ve always been interested in line work and thought instead of hopping right into it right out of high school, I’d do an internship to understand the work better,” McMillian said. 

His internship with APCo' Kingsport District began May 23 and will end July 29 – just weeks before he graduates high school. After completing his high school internship with APCo, McMillian plans to apply for a job with AEP.

In addition to line work, Arnold schedules time for McMillian to job shadow various subject matter experts across the company, from engineering to metering, to customer service and more.

“I want him to see what high school education jobs are available at the power company, what a two-year degree gets you, and what a four-year degree gets you,” Arnold said. “I didn’t think we were doing Connor any justice if we didn’t at least expose him to different departments. Plus, it allows him to see every step of the process, from when a customer calls in and applies for power to when the order is complete.” 

“But there is no doubt that this young man wants to become a lineman. Seeing the other departments has helped him realize that that’s the avenue he wants to take.”

McMillian enjoys trouble work the most, as he enjoys the problem-solving aspect of it. 

“There’s a lot of gratitude in restoring customers’ power, and I’m glad he gets to see that,” Arnold added. “That’s our product that we’re delivering to our customers, and he gets to see what it takes to get power restored.

Although McMillian is unable to do all that a line mechanic job entails, Arnold has ensured the crews McMillian works with has him complete minor –  yet important – line mechanic tasks.

First and foremost, however, the crews McMillian spends time with keep him focused on safety while on the job.

“The line crews have been very good about teaching me exactly what to do when it comes to safety,” McMillian said. “I am more cautious now when I am in reverse in my [own] truck. Seeing the crew members always backing in has also made me more aware of potential hazards.”

Arnold has received a lot of positive feedback from crews that work with McMillian, saying they enjoy working with him and training him. Having McMillian as an intern on property has been successful. 

"We want to do what we can to introduce high school students to line work and show them exactly what it looks like for them in hopes they consider working for AEP,” said Porter. “This program is for us to raise awareness of line work and introduce the work at an earlier stage.”


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